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Month: April 2003

Genre of wishes

I am slow as molasses in January, but here’s my thoughts on WISH 40: Preferred Style. The question:

What style of game do you prefer to play in? Style here does not mean genre, although certain styles work better under some genres than others. Style is more about the elements that predominate in a game: combat, politics, mysteries/puzzles, romance/interpersonal relations, etc. What three adjectives best describe your favorite game style? Does this style lend itself to particular genres or games?

I like games with lots of mysteries in them. When I’m GMing, I find I always think in terms of mysteries, which is one reason I don’t consider myself a great GM — lots of people want more straightforward stuff, and focusing on the mystery/puzzle can shortchange the roleplay. But I really like figuring things out, particularly within the context of a particular PC’s mindset. You can see this in my Unknown USA character Reese Beulay, who has a pretty odd take on the occult.

I like horror. Is that a genre? From experience, I don’t think so. I’ve probably never run a game without some horror creeping in — squicky stuff, tension, that kind of thing. It’s my favored means of achieving immersion. I find that the horrific tends to focus people marvelously.

I like roleplayed interaction. I’d rather do a scene where I don’t get information out of a well-realized NPC than a scene where I get information out of an NPC who might as well be named “Information Dispenser.” Story is less of a concern for me than roleplay and a fully realized world; I’m of the camp that believes that story arises inevitably from the right setting.

So, three adjectives? Horrific, immersive, and personality-driven.

Can't blame them, then

Bush approved use of tear gas in Iraq today. This pretty much validates the possession of chem warfare suits by the Iraqis. Turns out that when the Senate ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention way back when, they added language permitting battlefield use of riot-control agents with presidental approval.

The CWC defines toxic chemicals as “Any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.” So tear gas definitely qualifies. It also mentions (in the same article) that domestic riot control is not prohibited. Iraq’s hardly domestic, of course.

And, just to round things out, these two quotes — “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances… To use chemical weapons,” and “Each State Party undertakes not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.” There you go.

The Pentagon is arguing that the CWC doesn’t prohibit using the agents for defensive purposes, but that’s fairly obviously untrue. Well, no; it’s true given the way in which we modified it. A while back I was arguing about the legal validity of treaties, such as the UN Charter, and I mentioned that if Congress had an obligation to take treaties seriously; this kind of modification is what I was talking about. We’re clear on this from a legal point of view. How our allies will react, I dunno. Britain isn’t going to use them, and won’t even allow troops to be in operations where they’re used.

The reason the un-modified CWC prohibits riot control chemical weapons is pretty simple, by the by. The four previous major uses of chemical weapons on the battlefield in the past (including the Iraq/Iran war) all started with non-lethal agents. It’s not namby-pambyness, it’s practicality and an awareness of history.

Thanks to gwen for the news.

What's in a demon

Warped setting idea for Sorcerer: high school cliques. Remember, in Sorcerer the demons don’t have to be demons per se. So in this setting, the demons are the clique leaders — the cheerleaders, the quarterbacks, the people who control the lunch tables. The sorcerers are the new kids in school. They have a choice: they can suck up to the cool kids (Binding, Containing, and so on) or they can maintain their Humanity (the amount of time they spend with actually interesting people).

Disclaimer: this concept might make Ron Edwards turn green, I dunno. It is not intended to accurately model high school. Plenty of popular kids in high school were also interesting. Etc.

Strange fellows

I was reminded tonight to post a link to Jerry Pournelle’s comments on Empire. He was against this war, for reasons quite different than most; he’s fond of the Republic, and he believes that the war puts us firmly on the path to Empire. Here’s a little more.

I think it’s worth the time to read the thoughts of a military-minded man who has thought deeply about the politics of this matter. I don’t think Pournelle’s views on Republic and Empire are proof positive of anything; I just think they’re interesting. It’s good insight into the nature of aggressive wars such as the ones the neocons desire.

Or maybe Mastercard

Josh Marshall discusses victory conditions today. I have a simple victory condition; the day Bush announces we’ve won the war, I’m gonna call the State Department and ask about getting a visa to travel to Iraq. If they recommend against it, I don’t think we’ve won.

This sets the war in the appropriate context, that of the War on Terrorism. As a standard, it willfully ignores the question of military victory, which will come far earlier — but since Bush has set the bar at a stable democracy in Iraq, I feel OK about waiting till it’s safe to travel there until I declare victory.

Precog power

Heh. I was right last night; the troops are pushing towards Baghdad. It’s been a successful advance so far. Note the destruction of the dam in that last story; that was a definite coup, since there’s been some worry that Saddam would be able to flood the river valley and slow down advancing troops.

This is another point at which Saddam is likely to use chemical weapons if he has ‘em. Up till now there’s been no new convincing evidence that he does, but one of the BBC embeds filed a report that his troops found instructions to an Iraqi Chemical Warfare Officer. (John Simpson, at 11:11 GMT.) Not hard evidence, just the most relevant thing we’ve found so far. I don’t count the chem warfare suits, no. We have a bunch of those too.